Gratitude, Nature, and Mental Health 

I have been making a mindful effort to focus on gratitude.  I have an abundance of blessings in my life and I am thankful for who and what I  have. Focusing on gratitude has done wonders for my mental health and I feel like I am in a really good place. I have solid ways that I am managing my symptoms.

Although when it comes to depression and anxiety, some days are still really hard and it’s challenging to cut through the fog. The days are fewer than they have ever been but with that being said, Thursday was a really rough day for me. It all started Wednesday evening and I went to bed around 8 PM so that I could escape.

Every ounce of my being fought me on Thursday. I felt alone. I felt like I was trapped on the inside, looking out into my world that I could only physically be part of. I didn’t feel connections or desires. I was numb. I tried to raise myself up but it only lasted a few moments. Time simply healed and when I awoke on Friday, I felt better and I silently gave thanks for a brand new day.

I have been reading The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan, a memoir about a year of research and focus on gratitude. The year long experience was life changing for her and the memoir is inspiring with what is possible in our lives because of gratitude. I am on chapter 12 and eager to finish the book.

Last night I read chapter 10 — Wonder Woman on the Appalachian Trail. Kaplan explored exercise as a way increase gratitude but found the atmosphere in a gym to be filled with intrusive noise. The gym for her felt more like a chore rather than a release.

She lives in Connecticut near the Housatonic River. The trail that runs along the river is officially part of the Appalachian Trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. She describes the section near her house as flat and peaceful and she decided that this location was the perfect place to test the connection between nature, gratitude, and exercise.

She ran for 60 minutes, listening to the sounds of nature and taking in the sights that nature offered, opting not to listen to headphones with a podcast. She described her experience of running in nature as being emotionally transporting, a form of meditation.

I was immediately reminded of the hike that I took by myself at the beginning of September. I soaked up every ounce of pleasure for those few hours. I turned the bend in the trail and was over come with joy when I saw leaves that looked like Mother Nature set her paint brush free. The air was crisp and cool. The moment was beautiful. I called out thank you to the universe for all of my the blessings. I was immensely grateful for it all. Looking back on that day, the hike felt like a form of meditation. My meditation.

I had my first late fall hiking and camping experience last weekend. I was on an exhilarating high the whole weekend and into the start of the new week. I was high from moving outside of my comfort zone, high from the physical activity, high from gratitude, and high from surrounding myself with nature.

 “Happy to discover the power of nature in increasing gratitude. Grateful to walk on a nature trail and see how it affects my body and mind. Lucky to discover that green makes us grateful.” – The Gratitude Diaries

My pack was 38 pounds! I carried two heavy-duty 7 pound sleeping pads equaling 14 pounds. I didn’t bring my smaller back country pad since I was unsure about the warmth it would give me from the ground. The second pad was for a friend who has no backpacking gear and the pad would not fit on the pack she borrowed from me.
My sleeping bag is rated to 0°C. It went down to around – 5°C between 1 – 5 AM. I put hand warmers in each of my socks and moved two around on my upper body every two hours when I woke up to turn on my other side. I was comfortably warm except for my top arm.

The connection for me with my mental health, nature, and gratitude could not be anymore clear. I see the utmost importance of being outside and being thankful for what nature does for me. I don’t always need to do anything extravagant like hike and camp, even just taking my dogs for a walk around the neighborhood and breathing in fresh air does me wonders. I really need to try and get myself outside when I am feeling a struggle. It’s hard with depression but if I can even just go sit outside on a bench, it will be worth it.

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